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Transportation Secretary Testifies before House Committee on Airline Delays

Aired September 28, 2000 - 1:21 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Airline officials say they're making progress in reducing airline delays. A House panel heard testimony today after the end of the worst summer in history for airline delays and passenger complaints. Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater declared that the airline industry is getting back on its feet.

CNN's Jeff Flock is on his feet at a place where many of the delays took place in this so-called summer of discontent: Chicago's O'Hare airport -- Jeff.

JEFF FLOCK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, Lou, we've been monitoring that hearing in Washington all morning. They're calling it, as you said, the summer of discontent. And nowhere was there more discontent than here at O'Hare in Chicago. How bad was it? Well, you need only consult the government's own numbers: the air travel consumer report. This is available on the Web and I will give you address in just a moment.

But first, let's look at those numbers, specifically, now, for July. Even the best of airports had only about eight and 10 of their flights arriving on time. DFW in Dallas, the top one for July, followed by Minneapolis, Detroit and Atlanta, where 3/4 of the flights were on time. The worst: Denver, San Francisco, and here at O'Hare, in Chicago, the worst. Less than half of the flights arriving on time.

Now, why was that? As you report, partly it was the United pilots' labor dispute that contributed to that. But, according to the transportation secretary and his testimony to Congress today, part of the problem is that this air travel industry is just too successful.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RODNEY SLATER, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: The question today is: How this economic expansion, the longest in our nation's history and this increasing demand on the use of the system, 675 million passengers, as you noted, and freight traffic growing on a daily basis. How do we deal with our capacity needs in this environment? In a nutshell, how do we deal with success?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FLOCK: According to the FAA administrator, Jane Garvey, today, on normal schedule, about 70 percent of the delays are weather- related. And, of course, on a beautiful day in Chicago today, if you look at those boards back behind me, you see largely on-time performance. It's managing those weather delays, they say, while keeping the system safe, that is the real trick.

We will continue to monitor that hearing on Capitol Hill today, Lou and then let you know what happens later in the day.

I'm Jeff Flock, CNN, reporting live from O'Hare in Chicago.

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